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Working with data

We know co-operatives – and we audit, verify, collaborate and continually improve to ensure our data is robust. 

Gold standard data

Co‑operatives UK is the most comprehensive source of information on co‑operative businesses in the UK.

Considered a ‘gold standard’ within the global co‑operative movement, we strive for the best data we can to help promote, develop and unite co‑operatives. Understanding the sector and using intelligence to direct and measure our work is crucial.

Here’s why we’re proud of our data:

Every data point we publish has been verified and all are subject to audit. We conduct regular sweeps of publicly available sources to add, remove, update, cross‑reference all incoming data and bring many disparate sources together. Only data that is verified enters our dataset. There are no estimates of turnover, membership or employee numbers. This effectively means we under- rather than over-estimate these numbers, but all facts we provide are reliable and evidenced.

Everything from defining co‑operatives and mutuals, to calculating their contribution to the co‑operative economy, is done with co‑operation at its heart.

Our data and statistics are shared resources produced with our members and federal organisations. We have worked with data specialist co‑ops throughout the process of restructuring and opening up our data – and working out how to ensure end users get the best from our resources.

We also collaborate internationally when it comes to data. We share best practice with our fellow apex bodies across the world. We have worked with the International Co‑operative Alliance and the International Labour Organisation, as well as individual co‑operative trade associations to collaboratively learn, share and grow our mutual economies.

Transparency is important to us. In accordance with the principles of co‑operation we regularly publish our datasets. We make our data openly available to allow anyone to access, analyse, build upon, share and help us improve it. You can find the more recent quarterly update here.

We love to hear from those who have made use of our data in research at any level, so please get in touch. Equally, if you spot any errors or miscategorisations in our open datasets, please let us know and we can work to correct it. We love hearing from researchers, co‑operators and other end users and this helps us further improve our services.

As the trade association representing the co‑operative movement in the UK, understanding co‑operatives is our bread and butter. There’s no single co‑operative legal form in the UK and while many of the organisations we champion are societies regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority, co‑operative principles and rules can be (and are) successfully used by organisations of all types, such as limited liability partnerships and community interest companies etc. 

Many businesses could be a co‑operative. It’s a way of doing business.

We have a multi‑layered approach to recognising an organisation as a co‑operative. These include regulatory body and legal form; rules of association as defined by our in‑house registration team or one of our federal bodies or allied business support services; and adherence to a series of essential and desirable criteria in line with the International Co-operative Alliance definition of a co‑operative enterprise.

This is pretty hard work but worth it to ensure we protect the UK movement and ensure compliance and the reputation of the sector.

We’ve been counting co-ops since 1871. As The Co-operative Union, the impressively titled ‘Information Department’ comprehensively collated on everything from textiles imports to umbrella sales in co‑operative societies across the land.

Since then we’ve streamlined our data, moved it online, and opened up our data, but we haven’t lost sight of counting what counts.

We’re always looking for opportunities to improve and collaborate when it comes to research, if you have questions or would like to work with us, get in touch.

Find out more about co-operative research...
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